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CHICAGO — The state’s health agency has released tips for people who plan to celebrate upcoming holidays despite the coronavirus pandemic.

The No. 1 tip: Don’t see people if you’re sick.

“Please, please understand that you need to stay home,” Dr. Ngozi Ezike, head of the Illinois Department of Public Health, said at a Wednesday news conference. “Don’t assume your symptoms are not serious, don’t assume that they are not COVID, don’t assume that you’re not contagious.

“Take the better decision and, if you are sick, please stay home. We don’t want to have our holidays marred by tragedy on the backend.”

Ezike and Gov. JB Pritzker urged people to continue to have only small gatherings for upcoming holidays like Halloween, Diwali, Thanksgiving and Christmas. They said the safest thing for people to do is to have virtual visits with people outside their households.

But Pritzker acknowledged some people will have holiday celebrations anyway, so the Department of Public Health is providing guidance to make those events safer.

The tips cover everything from how people can stay safe while traveling to how to serve food and serve people.

But celebrations still come with risks, as even small family gatherings have been a major source of COVID-19 spread throughout Illinois.

“Small family gatherings are one of the most prevalent ways that the virus is being transmitted,” Pritzker said. “When confronted about decisions, many people who have erred on the side of caution up to now might face new temptation to let their guard down.

“Let me be blunt: This virus isn’t taking a holiday. It only wants to find new hosts.”

All of the state’s tips for safer holidays are available online.

The state’s tips for safer holidays:


  • Consider the different risks of travel: If you’re taking a plane, bus or train, you might need to wait in lines and be closer than 6 feet to other people for long periods of time. If you’re driving, you might need to make stops along the way.
  • You can decrease your risk by wearing face coverings and washing your hands regularly.
  • Carry a personal sanitizing kit with extra masks, hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes.
  • If you are sick, even if it is only a mild illness, do not travel.


  • Limit the number of guests, and do not let guests crowd together in small areas, like a kitchen.
  • Try to host as many activities outdoors as possible.
  • If you have to be inside, increase air flow by opening windows.
  • You and your guests should wear masks indoors, except when eating and drinking.
  • Limit your activities and ask your guests to limit theirs for two weeks before an event so everyone has had as little potential exposure to COVID-19 as possible.
  • Limit personal interactions, like handshakes and hugs.

Overnight Stays

  • The host and guests should talk about what they expect from each other ahead of time. The host and guests can make a schedule for when to use shared facilities, like bathrooms.
  • The host should have a room where people can isolate if they become ill.
  • Consider the health and vulnerabilities of people you’re visiting. Those who are elderly and have underlying medical conditions are more at risk from COVID-19.
  • Clean frequently-touched surfaces and make hand sanitizer available.
  • Make sure everyone wears masks and practices social distancing.

Seating People

  • Try to keep members of the same household together and separate them from members of other households.
  • Try using smaller tables to separate households.
  • Spread out the celebration over multiple rooms.


  • Avoid buffet- and potluck-style meals. If you must have a buffet- or potluck-style meal, remind everyone to wash their hands before eating.
  • Consider having one person serve all the food so multiple people aren’t handling the same serving utensils.
  • Consider having all food already plated and giving that to guests.
  • Limit the number of people going in and out of areas where food is being prepared, like the kitchen and dining room.
  • Social distancing should be practiced even during the meal.
  • Consider single-use disposal utensils and dishware.


  • Order online. Look at the websites of local stores and place orders online or through the phone that you can then pick up.
  • Order groceries online and get them delivered or do curbside pickup.
  • If you need to shop in person, go at a time when the stores are not as busy.
  • In-person sales that encourage large crowds and lining up for limited deals are considered high-risk.
  • Visits to characters like Santa Claus should include wearing masks and social distancing as possible.

Block Club Chicago’s coronavirus coverage is free for all readers. Block Club is an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom.

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